Puffin crossing

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Puffin control panel

A pedestrian user-friendly intelligent crossing (puffin crossing) is a type of pedestrian crossing in use in the United Kingdom.

It differs from a pelican crossing, which this design is now replacing, in that the lights controlling the pedestrians are on the near side of the road, rather than on the opposite side. The system also utilises sensors which detect the presence of pedestrians waiting at the crossing, and as they are crossing the road.


Unlike the older pelican crossing designs, where the pedestrian signal lights are mounted on the opposite side of the road, the puffin crossing has them mounted at the near road side, set diagonally to the road edge. This allows the pedestrian to monitor passing traffic while waiting for the signal to cross.[1] A second reason for the design is that having the lights closer to the user assists visually impaired people who could have difficulty viewing the signal from across the carriageway.[1]

Some push-button units (the lower box in the picture) are also fitted with a tactile knob under the unit which rotates when the user may cross. This feature is to assist with visually impaired people struggling to see the light change.

After a request to cross (by button press) a kerb-side detector monitors the pedestrian's presence at the crossing. Should the pedestrian cross prematurely, walk away from the crossing, or wait outside the detection area, the pedestrian's request to cross could be automatically cancelled so traffic is not halted unnecessarily.

An on-crossing detector ensures that the signal for vehicles remains red until the pedestrians have finished crossing (within practical limits). Unlike the pelican crossing, there is no transitional "flashing" phase.[2]

The pedestrian phase will start at the moment all three of these conditions are fulfilled:

  • the pedestrian push button has been pressed since the end of the last pedestrian phase
  • the Maximum Traffic Green Timer has expired
  • the detectors indicate that a pedestrian is still waiting to cross

The Maximum Traffic Green Timer is started either when the pedestrian push button is pressed or when the traffic signals first turn green after the previous pedestrian phase. The latter arrangement is termed the Pre-timed Maximum Facility. [1]


Concerns have been expressed that Puffin crossings may be less safe than Pelican crossings due to causing confusion, however, a 2008 study commissioned by the DfT found that Puffins were safer than Pelican crossings with fewer pedestrian accidents and fewer involving cars,[3] despite confusing pedestrians.


  1. ^ a b c Foreword, Puffin Good Practice Guide, Department for Transport, 2006
  2. ^ "Rule 199". The Highway Code. Department for Transport. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "http://www.roadsafetygb.org.uk/news/2170.html". Road Safety GB. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 

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